Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor has been meeting with student representatives from various institutions this week amid calls for the national shutdown of universities.
This comes after protests at a number of universities this week, including Wits University, Vaal University of Technology (VUT) and Durban University of Technology (DUT).
Students have been protesting against a number of issues, including registration hurdles, limited accommodation, historic debt and non-payment by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
Third-year DUT student Mlungisi Madonsela died after he was caught in the crossfire between authorities and protesting students last week.
DUT SRC president Sesiyanda Godlimpi says the institution does not have enough space to accommodate learners and has failed to clear NSFAS candidates in order for them to either register or obtain their qualifications.
We want the university to increase the number of beds it has available for students. We are also having a problem with the university unblocking the students, despite a clear direction given by NSFAS.— Sesiyanda Godlimpi, SRC president - Durban University of Technology
In terms of historical debt, we have students who have graduated last year but don't have their qualifications because NSFAS hasn't cleared their historical debt.— Sesiyanda Godlimpi, SRC president - Durban University of Technology
Wits SRC member Sibongile Sibeko says university management has reneged on an agreement to allow qualifying students who owe R100 000 or less to register despite their debt.
Sibeko adds that many senior students were left without university accommodation this year as management gave preference to first-years.
However, many of the senior students have been left out in the cold and can't afford private accommodation.
There is a general distrust between the student populous and university management.— Sibongile Sibeko, Gender and transformation officer - Wits SRC
We were not told that this was going to happen. The university did not make alternative arrangements for the people that have been kicked out of these residences to have a place to stay in 2019.— Sibongile Sibeko, Gender and transformation officer - Wits SRC
There needs to be a plan in place. It can't be that in 2019, students are sleeping in the SRC offices, in toilets, in libraries and all over the university.— Sibongile Sibeko, Gender and transformation officer - Wits SRC
Higher Education responds
Meanwhile, the Department of Higher Education says NSFAS-qualifying students who owe funds can be registered as long as they sign an acknowledgement of debt form.
Deputy Director-General (DDG) Dr Diane Parker says the department is working on the administrative issues affecting historical debt and NSFAS candidates.
Parker says the department will investigate why universities have not cleared NSFAS-qualifying students to register.
We have to sort this out. There shouldn't be any NSFAS-qualifying student who is unable to register, even if they have historic debt with an institution. We have to get that information and deal with that.— Dr Diane Parker, Deputy director-general - Department of Higher Education
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